Obama on Paris Climate Accord: ‘History Will Judge Today as a Turning Point For Our Planet’

By Patrick Goodenough | October 5, 2016 | 7:33 PM EDT

President Obama speaks in the White House rose garden on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 on the Paris climate agreement. (Photo: White House)

(CNSNews.com) – “History will judge today as a turning point for our planet,” President Obama tweeted Wednesday, as the international community met the ratification threshold required to make the Paris climate accord a reality. It will enter into force in 30 days’ time – four days before the U.S. election.

In a televised address from the White House rose garden, the line was tempered somewhat, with the president saying, “If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Ratification by the European Union crossed the second of two thresholds needed for the ambitious climate accord to enter into force – ratification by countries together accountable for 55 percent of total emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The other requirement – ratification by at least 55 nations – had already been met.

The Paris agreement aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels through carbon emission reduction and other measures.

“The Paris agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis,” Obama conceded. “Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go. But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change.”

He said the agreement will help countries reduce their “dangerous carbon emissions,” and encourage “high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before.”

“So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.”

Obama joined the Paris accord early last month by executive order. Administration officials essentially argued that it is not a treaty requiring Senate advice and consent, but amounts rather to extension of existing obligations in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which the Senate already ratified in 1992.

In response to Wednesday’s developments, Speaker Paul Ryan accused Obama of acting unlawfully, and in a way that threatens the U.S. economy and jobs.

The Paris climate deal would be disastrous for the American economy. It carelessly throws away the great gains that the United States has made over the past decade in energy development,” he said in a statement.

“The abundant, low-cost energy that we have unlocked will now be shut in the ground, eliminating the economic growth and jobs that come with development. The result will be higher energy costs for Americans – which will be especially painful for the poorest among us.”

“Furthermore, President Obama has once again acted unlawfully by signing an international treaty without Senate ratification, as required by the Constitution,” Ryan said.

 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump earlier this year vowed to reject (“cancel”) the Paris accord if he wins November’s election.

But with the agreement now set to take effect before the next president in inaugurated, even should he be that president and intend to meet that pledge, a U.S. withdrawal could not take place for four years.

The accord says no party may apply to withdraw within the first three years of its entry into force, and that written notice of withdrawal will only take effect another 12 months later.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who in his current role and during a long Senate career championed the campaign against global warming, hailed the agreement’s imminent entry into force.

“For many years, scientists have been warning us that climate change is real, it is happening now, and, barring global action to change the course our planet is on, it will have devastating impacts in nearly every corner of the world,” Kerry said.

“As someone who has spent the better part of my professional life focused on fighting climate change, I have seen the global community begin to heed that warning time and again, only to fall far short of the kind of worldwide action that will make a difference.

Today it is crystal clear that we have finally woken up.”


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow